An unexpected reunion, a surprise reminder of gratitude

A photo of Dr. Joel with friend Jeff Sunshine
An unexpected reunion with grade-school classmate and Educare supporter, Jeff Sunshine

This is always one of the best times of the year for celebratory events, and student and staff acknowledgements, as we are finishing fast to put another year into the books. With about five weeks left, there is much work yet to accomplish and everyone is focused, yet we still make time for those important conferences and gatherings.

As some know, I graduated high school in New York in 1972.  It was a large high school with more than 1,000 students per class.  We all had our niche groups and mine was athletics.  I have fond memories of my teachers and coaches, and a few friends who are still in touch.  However, I have only attended one reunion and that was the 20th.   Being such a large school made it difficult to connect with many and, while the gathering was well planned, I didn’t see it as a high priority.

A  recent experience, however, presented me with something of an unexpected surprise 50th high school reunion.  Earlier this week I attended the Educare National Conference, hosted in Lincoln, where I was introduced to a major Educare funder whose organization was committed to all day everyday pre-school. He had this incredibly positive vibe that convinced me he was ideally suited to helping communities change the life trajectory for students in poverty.  But there was something else about him that nagged at my memory.

As the evening wore on, it dawned on me that I had a grade school classmate with a similar name. Approaching Jeff, I peppered him with questions about where he was living (California), where he grew up (New York), where in NY (Long Island) and which town (Wantagh).  And my final question – Did he attend Lee Road Elementary? – was the moment he rose out of his seat as we both immediately remembered we were long-ago classmates, living a couple blocks from each other.

In many ways it was surreal, a fortuitous crossing of paths, but it also sent me a message. Each of us had been on journeys filled with a multitude of experiences, locations, interests and relationships.

Yet once we got over the shock of realizing that many years had passed since we sat in Mr. Adler’s science class, we quickly spoke about the impact our teachers had on our lives.  When the evening ended, and Jeff and I had relived an essential part of our lives, I was wishing I would have somehow said thank you to Mr. Adler, Mr. Stahl, Mrs. Spiegelman and Mrs. Beaucheme.  They gave me my foundation for life, taught me to read and write, to care about others.

My message:  We need to take time to thank the teacher(s) who impacted our lives and our journeys.   It is the least we can do.

Thank you for all your support of our public schools.